Einstein and Nature’s “Mysterious Comprehensibility”
"The eternal mysterm of the world is its comprehensibility." – Albert Einstein. Join Jason Ross and the LPAC Basement for a discussion of Einstein's view of the relationship of the human mind with the discoverable universe, and how a faith in the goodness of nature's composition guides discovery. Einstein: "When I am judging a theory, I ask myself whether, if I were God, I would have arranged the world in such a way."
BEN DENISTON: Welcome to a New Paradigm for Mankind on larouchepac.com. This is our weekly scientific discussion on LaRouche PAC, and today we have a rather extensive show and discussions. I actually don't want to say a whole lot, but just get right into it, but I'm sure our regular viewers are aware that Mr. LaRouche has referenced a particular individual scientific thinker as the exemplary case of what scientific creativity is, and is the best recent example of true scientific creative genius; and he's put a very high premium on the importance of understanding and recognizing the role of Albert Einstein as defining what demonstrates what real human creative genius is.
We've been taking this up as a project in the Basement to help illustrate and demonstrate why Einstein in particular stands as a critical reference point for where mankind needs to be looking now to move in the right direction. So Jason has prepared a discussion for us today on some initial work he's been doing on the role of Einstein.
JASON ROSS: There's a lot to say about Einstein, so I'm going to take up only a few topics today, which I want to briefly put in the context of some recent victories and some work that's still needed. Over the past recent weeks or months, we've had tremendous success for example on forcing the release of the 28 pages; on the very successful rally and press conference regarding JASTA yesterday, in Washington, D.C. with the Senate announcing that it would stay in session to override the expected veto that Obama is planning on the JASTA legislation this week; and we've got overall an ongoing barrage of news that you hear about on the site if you tune in regularly about the BRICS; about the cooperation proposed at the G20, about the economic collaborations taking place, the new paradigm sweeping the world.
Now one of the things that has a fair amount of room to grow is a fuller understanding of economics, where even many people who have the right intentions, still have monetarist thinking. Or, instead of putting it negatively, let's say what's needed, which is a better understanding of the physical basis of economics as a science. Economics as a science, sometimes people call it a "social science," as though it's not rigorous like physics or the exact sciences. In fact, economics is about the relationship between human discovery and the implementation of those discoveries physically, to transform how we live, to transform our relationship with nature. The fundamental basis of economics as a science is the understanding of the creative process.
That's not something most economists think. Most economists think in terms of money or measuring economic production, physical production, etc. But really to be a skilled economist, you have to have an understanding from the inside of the creative process. Now, Einstein provides us a really an excellent opportunity to look at this, because he's recent; he revolutionized our understanding of the world, and is undoubtedly is a great genius, and he's so misunderstood, or just not understood today.
In some discussion with Mr. LaRouche recently, he emphasized that the aspect of Einstein to focus on, is how he created new principles, not as mathematics, keep your focus in studying him in this context, in what he represented as the creation of new principles, as the human identity that goes beyond what previous generations had done.
So let's talk about him. Einstein was a scientist, as I'm sur people have at least heard if you don't know. He was also very courageous in many other fields. He was a leading proponent of civil rights in the United States, he was an opponent of militarism, who got himself into trouble for his political views throughout much of his life, starting from a very early age, when he opposed the militarism of the Germany he was living in, the Prussian sense of militarism that he saw and opposed. He was a musician; when he was very young, his mother, who was a pianist, got him a violin and after overcoming the hurdles of initial practicing and being able to do anything with it, he was a devoted, musician throughout his life, performing benefit concerts in his middle age; sticking with it, even when he was older and his fingers could no longer really use the violin he would still play piano, especially his favorite composer, Mozart.
What I'm going to do, is give a very brief and not that detailed overview of Einstein's life and we're going to hit on a couple of themes I hope we can talk about more. One thing about him was that from an early age he did not submit to authority. He did not go along with something because he was told it. And this came very early, when he was searching for a greater sense of meaning in his life than just trying to get by, just trying to get ahead, or achieving the kind of success that most people thought was important to them. Einstein said for him, he didn't care about it at all. He had some sort of actual goal, some sort of mooring for his life, some sense of value for what's the point of being alive, what's the point of being a human being.
He had looked at religion as a child, but after realizing, reading some science books, that not everything in the Bible was strictly true: He felt cheated, he felt lied to, and as he wrote later in his life, he developed an aversion to authority from an early age. But he didn't only question, he didn't oppose authority and let it end there; he didn't only ask questions, he really developed an ability to get answers.
And one of the myths about Einstein is what he couldn't do math. Now, it's true that later in life he regretted not having studied math more, when he was younger, but it's not like he couldnt do fractions or something like that. He knew calculus by age 15, working on his own, so he was — in Einstein's words, he wasn't "that good in math." This wasn't like he couldn't add numbers or something like that.
But what moist interested him in school was physics, you know, the real world; he received as a gift from his uncle when he was a boy — this is a wonderful present — a steam engine! Can you imagine having a steam engine to play with, to get a real sense of how things work, the basis of industry. He received from a family friend, a set of science books, one of these collections of books that he read through about science, that in one of the sections of this book, it's talking about how planets were discovered based on how they affected other planets without even being seen. The book said, "Praised be science! Praised be the people who do it! And praised be the human mind which sees more sharply than does the human eye." A nice environment to grow up in.
So Einstein realized, as he put it, "out yonder, there was this huge world, which exists independently before us human beings, and which stands before us like a great eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking. The contemplation of this world beckoned like a liberation, and I soon noticed that many a person that I had learned to esteem and admire, had found inner freedom and security in devoted occupation with that world. The road to this paradise was not as comfortable and alluring as the road to religious paradise. But it has proved itself as trustworthy, and I have never regretted having chosen it."
For him, the comprehensibility of the world was to him an indication of a sense of composition in it. Although Einstein did not believe in a personal God of that sort, he opposed the atheistic view that there's no reason to anything. We'll come back to that.
Regarding his thought, let me say a little bit about what he thought about music, because this wasn't a pastime for him, or only a stress reliever, as his colleagues, family members, children, told the stories: When Einstein would get stumped sometimes in his thinking, he would take out his violin, he would play, and while working through Mozart, he would put it down and say, "Ah! I've got it!" So here's some of his views on that:
Einstein said: "Mozart's music is so pure and beautiful that I see it as a reflection of the inner beauty of the universe itself. Of course, like all great beauty, his music was pure simplicity."
He was given a questionnaire at a certain point about other musicians and what he thought about them, in middle age, and he said, "Beethoven created his music, but Mozart's music is so pure it seems to have been ever present in the universe." Mozart might say, "well, it's still worth writing it."
But Einstein said, "I feel uncomfortable listening to Beethoven, he's too personal, almost naked. Give me Bach, rather, and then more Bach." He admired Schubert for his superlative ability to express emotion. He thought that Wagner had a lack of architectural structure that he saw as decadent. And he thought that Strauss was "gifted, but lacking inner truth." So he was a musician.
Now, in opposing militarism, at a certain point his family's business didn't go well; his father was in the electrical business. They moved to Italy, he ended up moving to Switzerland. He for the first time in his life, renounced his German citizenship as a student there in Switzerland — he'd end up doing it again — based on his opposition to militarism and to the army. So, in Switzerland he goes to college, for his final paper to graduate, he was going to propose a study about how to figure out the motion of the Earth through the ether.
Let me say something about that. It was generally considered at his time, that light, which was known to move as a wave, had to be waving in something. Sound waves move through the air, or water, or whatever they're moving through. If light is a wave, what's waving? So, a substance had been conjured up, called the ether, and people believed that light was vibrations through this substance called the ether.
And people thought about measuring how fast is the Earth flying through this ether stuff that's all around us. And Einstein, not having read papers about that, decided he would propose an experiment, and that's what he wrote up in college for his graduation paper. His advisor gave him a book, an article about 13 experiments that had already been done on that, but this is the kind of thing he was already thinking about at the time.
Another thing that he's thinking about is, a simple thought-experiment. Let me read Einstein's account of this. This is one of his ideas from his mind. He said, at age 16, he thought to himself: "If I pursue a beam of light with the velocity c..." with the same speed as the light is moving, "I should observe such a beam of light as an electromagnetic field at rest though spatially oscillating. There seems to be no such thing, however, neither on the basis of experience nor according to Maxwell's equations."
So as an aside, Maxwell, who had pulled together electricity, magnetism, and light, explained the motion of light as sort of criss-crossing waves of electricity and magnetism. So it moved through space, or the ether with a certain speed. Einstein said, if we caught up with the light, if we were moving at its speed with it, we would see stationary something that just keeps switching back and forth with electricity and magnetism while not moving, they're just oscillating in space.
Since that doesn't happen, Einstein's already by age 16 realized that there's something wrong about the thought of "catching up" to light, or moving at the speed of light. So here's what he wrote about that, reflection. He said, "From the very beginning it appeared to me intuitively clear that, judged from the standpoint of such an observer, everything would have to happen according to the same laws as for an observer who, relative to the Earth, was at rest. For how should the first observer know or be able to determine, that he is in a state of fast uniform motion? One sees in this paradox the germ of the special relativity theory is already contained."
So, Einstein believed that the principles of nature shouldn't depend or be expressed differently based on the fact that you're moving. This is an idea that goes back — Leibniz wrote about this, Galileo wrote about this; in fact both of those men wrote about ships, that if you're inside a large ship and the ship is moving smoothly along the ocean, not too many waves, you can do whatever experiments you want inside your cabin and you're not going to be able to figure out whether the ship is moving or not. So Einstein is taking that, and saying, if you caught up with light, if you're moving at that speed, the motion of light, a physical process, shouldn't seem different. It certainly shouldn't appear as something that's never been seen before, this oscillation without motion. This is the kind of thinking that's going on in his mind.
Now, after graduating college, he had a really hard time getting a job; eventually one of his friends' father got him a job at the patent office, in Bern, Switzerland, which worked out well for him, because it gave him a very — he had to have a mindset of things are coming in and trying to figure out how they might not work. Does this patent really make sense? Should it be approved or not? Does this device work? Is it real? And the kinds of things he was seeing were about electromagnetism, there was a lot of work on clocks, on synchronizing clocks, on using light or electricity to synchronize clocks. The kinds of things that are the way he discusses relativity.
So this is what he's up to. At the time he develops a sort of study group with his friends where they call themselves the Olympia Academy, somewhat jokingly, and worked through things together. And in this context comes his miracle year of 1905. Here's how he described it to his friend Conrad Habicht, who was one of the members of this "Olympia Academy."
He says in May 1905, "I promise you four papers.... return. The first deals with radiation and the energy properties of light and is very revolutionary, as you will see if you send me your work first. The second paper is a determination of the true size of atoms. The third proves that bodies on the order of magnitude 1/1000 mm, suspended in liquids, must already produce an observable, random motion that is produced by thermal motion. Such movement of suspended bodies has actually been observed by physiologists, who call it Brownian molecular motion. The fourth paper is only a rough draft at this point, and is an electrodynamics of moving bodies which employs a modification of the theory of space and time." A casual letter to a friend, "I've modified the theory of space and time."
So, I'll say just a little bit about these four papers. The first one of these on the photoelectric effect: This expanded the concept of the quantum that Planck had developed in 1900, where Planck, in order to explain the color of light given off by an object as it's heated to different temperatures, explain the interaction of light and physical bodies, and the way they emit light, the way they absorb light, in terms of that light interacting with matter in discrete units called quanta. Planck did not believe that all light came in pieces.
Einstein's 1905 paper explained the photoelectric effect which is what occurs in solar cells, in solar panels, where light strikes a substance, kicks a electrons out of it, the light turns into electricity. Einstein explained how that occurred based on light having to be in pieces, coming in chunks, particles, later called photons. The light was not only a wave and had to be considered as being in pieces as well. Something that nobody had really believed for centuries, ever since the wave theory of light made more sense than Newton's theory of light as balls. So even years later, Planck didn't agree with Einstein on this.
On the second paper, about measuring the size of atoms, this is pretty incredible. Einstein gives as an application in this paper, how by measuring the thickness or the viscosity of sugar solutions, adding more sugar it becomes more syrupy and it spreads more slowly; based on measuring that you could figure out how many atoms there were in a cup of water. Pretty astonishing. Using the technique that Einstein proposed, some physicists did the measurements at the time and got a number that's within about 1% of what was the value that people got from measuring gases. So he's got a totally new way of measuring atoms. And at this time, also, atoms were not considered universally accepted, and people didn't believe atoms existed.
Then on the third paper where he explained the dancing around of very small particles, little specs of dust or whatever you have, in water, this gave another way of getting the number of atoms in a cup of water. Where somebody with a microscope, watching little things mess around inside water, and the average size of their bounces around, could, if you measured very accurately, come up with the number of atoms. Pretty amazing stuff.
And then, he had his fourth paper, where he casually modifies the laws of space and time. And that's the theory of special relativity.
So I'd like to show a demonstration of this, and I'll use some graphics to help here. Let's first start with an experiment, and then we'll generalize it. So, Einstein, in his descriptions of this talks a lot about trains, people observing trains, and people observing on trains. Here you see, we've got a train and we've got an observer, who's at the midpoint of the train, standing on the ground, watching it go by. [Animation 1]
Let's say that at a certain moment, there are lightning strikes that are at the front and the back of the train. The observer doesn't know that they happened yet, because the light from those strikes has to reach him. So let's step this through in times and see what occurs:
So, light comes off the railroad track where the lightning hit the rail, and then over time the train moves to the right and the light, which moves quicker than the train, is moving from both sides towards the observer, who at this moment sees the light from both directions that reaches his eyes. And he says, "Ah! Well, I saw how far away those spots were on the rail, they're the same distance from me. I saw them at the same time, so those lightning strikes occurred at the same time." In other words he could step back in his mind and trace back and say, "Yeah, this is the moment when the lightning strikes occurred. It hit the front and the back of the train same time."
Now, let's just say what if, the man is on the train? [Animation 2] Here's the observer. These lightning strikes occur at the front and the back of the train, from our standpoint — we're not on the train, we're watching it from the ground. It's going to move as we watch it. The lights created — you'll see why but I made one light look red and one light look green; you'll see. So let's trace out what occurs: As we're watching this, the light from both directions is approaching, but since the observer is moving to the right, he ends up seeing — here he sees the light from the front of the train has just reached him; so he saw the front of the train light up at this point. The next moment, this is when we, on the ground, had seen the light come together. And then, afterwards, the light from the back of the train has now reached the observer. So with these two different moments in time, when the front of the train light reached him, and then later when the light from the rear of the train reached him, he would say, "hmm, well, I saw light strike the front of the train, then I saw it hit the back of the train. I'm standing in the middle of the train" he walks between the cars along the train, he says, "I'm in the middle, so if I saw it hit the front first, then it must be because it hit the front first. They were the same distance from me."
So consider that paradox; there's an incongruity there. Observers on the ground would say that the two lightning strikes occurred at the same time; the man on the train, the observer there, would say, that lightning struck the front of the train first. Who was right?
What Einstein said was, they're both right. Or, maybe put it differently, observations varied based on the motion of the observer. There's a principle of relativity that the laws of nature are the same for everybody. The man on the train believes that light moves at the same speed, from his viewpoint, as the man on the ground sees light to move. When you put together the idea that the laws of nature are same for everybody, that the speed of light is constant for everybody, you get the conclusion that simultaneity no longer exists as a concept for different observers.
Now, the four of us are sitting here at this table, we're not moving relative to each other, one of us isn't flying past the room at half the speed of light. So we would all agree on whether things occur at the same time. But in general, that's not the case.
So what it means is that something people considered to be very basic, that things occur at a certain time, in a certain location, is no longer true. Different observers might consider that same event to have occurred at different times, from their viewpoint.
This is a very unsettling concept; it's a very difficult concept, to work through all the implications of, and it was not met with universal approval. People thought this was a pretty strange idea. Some people who worked it through and understood it, thought it was absolutely brilliant. But this is a very tough concept.
Oh by the way, even after publishing these four papers, Einstein still couldn't get a job at a university. So he's still working at the patent office; actually, later he considers being a high school teacher. Two years later, in 1907 while he's at the patent office, he has the idea of, if the worker on the roof of the building next door, fell off the roof — no one actually fell off the roof, he just imagined this — if someone fell off the roof, the worker with his tools wouldn't experience gravity at all. For them, the tools wouldn't be rushing to the ground any more quickly than they are; there's no force of gravity for him and the objects around him. So Einstein, two years after publishing his paper on special relativity, which only considers the transformation in observations of different observers who are moving with respect to each other, but moving uniformly, like the example of the cabin in the ship, where the ship is moving, you can't tell. Any kind of motion like that, a smoothly moving car, a smoothly moving train car, all the laws of physics are the same in them.
Einstein says, but if this is a universal concept it should also be true even if you're not moving at a uniform speed: What about the guy falling off the roof, he's accelerating. From Einstein's standpoint, sitting in his seat in the office, the man's moving faster and faster as he moves towards the ground. So Einstein developed what came to be known as general relativity, where he considered how it was that gravitation as a force and an accelerating reference frame had an equivalence between them as well.
This is really something for another discussion, so I'll just say a little bit about it, not comprehensive at all. One of the things that this explained was why it is that things that weigh more and have a bigger gravitational mass, also have a larger inertial mass. So if you think about how heavy something is, you can measure that in two ways. One is how much does it push down, on a scale. How much does it weigh? Another one is how hard is it to push to the side? So if you had a very heavy thing that was on the nicest cart ever, smooth, ball bearings; or let's say you're on an air hockey table. There's no friction. If you're trying to move something that's very heavy, just because there's no friction, doesn't mean you can push it and it just starts moving. You still have to give it a really good shove to get it moving — if you had, say, a refrigerator sitting on an air hockey table. You couldn't just hit it and it would start bouncing around on the table.
So there had been no explanation before Einstein, for why these two things were always the same, things that weighed twice as much were twice as hard to shove — why? With Einstein, there was now an explanation for something that seemed coincidental now had a reason. But we'll have to talk more about that another time — it's a large topic.
He's thinking about it, it's going to be another eight years before he publishes his paper on general relativity, because it's just hard to figure out the math and all the implications in all of this. Meanwhile, he does get a job; he moves to Prague at a certain point to be a professor there for a year. He goes to the first Solvay Conference held in Brussels, named after the Belgian industrialist Solvay, where he gives a speech on specific heat. But says that light is really quantized, that atoms definitely exist; this is one of the places where Planck says he disagrees with him. Planck introduces Einstein, Planck, the originator of the quantum distances himself from Einstein's shocking thoughts about it. So even among great thinkers, he's a very revolutionary person.
So just to finish up in these major works of his, in 1915 he publishes his paper on general relativity, and in it he makes forecasts about how it could be tested, what some of the implications would be. One is that because of the bending of space-time around the Sun, Mercury's orbit will change every year, and Einstein was able to for the first time, explain why it is that Mercury's orbit, the whole orbit itself twists around the Sun; that the place where Mercury comes closest to the Sun itself moves. And people had explained that partially, but there was a remaining component: 43 arc seconds, a 3600th of a degree per century is how far Mercury's orbit moved that was unexplained. Einstein explained it with general relativity.
Another prediction he made was that light would bend around the Sun. Now he wasn't the first person to say this. Even before he came up with general relativity he thought that light would bend as it went around the Sun. Other people 100 years earlier had said that light would bend as it went around the Sun. But the amount that Einstein had said it would bend as it went around the Sun, was different than anybody, or even he had said earlier. He gave a measure for how much it would bend.
And in a famous expedition of 1919, Eddington took photographs of the Sun during an eclipse, and the stars that were near the Sun — you have to take a picture during an eclipse because otherwise you can't see stars that are near the Sun, because the Sun's very bright and it lights up the atmosphere, and you can see anything near it. So during the eclipse, he found that the position of the stars near the Sun was off by the amount, an observational error, that Einstein had predicted. Which was tremendous news! This was a huge shock to the world. The New York Times article about this, the headline was a five layer headline — "Lights All Askew in the Heavens. Men of Science More or Less Agog over Results of Eclipse Observations. Stars Not Where They Seemed or Calculated To Be, but Nobody Need Worry. A Book for Twelve Wise Men. No more in all the world could comprehend it said Einstein, when his daring publishers accepted it."
Einstein heard about the news; it was unveiled at a meeting in London — he wasn't there. He celebrated by buying a new violin. And this is really the beginning of Einstein's amazing fame. It's sort of incomprehensible to imagine just such a famous celebrity in the world as being this scientist, when you think about what he did.
He got active in a lot of different areas. One thing was opposition to militarism. After World War I, for example, he had joined a number of movements calling for disarmament; the weapons should all be under the control of some international body, that young men should refuse the draft, they should refuse military service; these are the sort of things that Max Planck would say, for example. These were very controversial, very strong stands that Einstein took on these matters.
Let's jump way ahead: In '33, he moved to the United States for good. He never went to Europe again. He came only a month before the Nazis ended up ransacking his house, his apartment in Berlin, his country house as well. And he got involved in such a variety of things: one thing was the civil rights struggle inside the United States. He wrote letters in support, he volunteered to serve as a character witness for W.E.B. DuBois who was being charged with being a Communist. Einstein provided a place for Marian Anderson to stay, when she was in Princeton; the nice hotel in town turned her away after she sang a concert there, so she would stay at his house. He wrote articles. He continued to be involved politically against militarism, for example, although with the rise of Hitler he went back on his idea that everyone should refuse military service; he told some Belgian protesters, he said: Well maybe it's OK to join the army. This is clearly defensive, after Hitler had come to power.
He was also involved, when he first came to the U.S., it was on a trip to raise funds for Zionism at the time, about more settlements in Palestine, about setting up in particular what became Hebrew University, which Einstein was very excited about. He really did not agree with where that movement ended up going. He had second thoughts about the establishment of Israel as a state; although once it was created he said, "well, it's here, we should support it." He was actually offered to be the President of Israel. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion was sort of hoping that Einstein would say "no," which he did. Ben-Gurion was thinking: uh-oh, what if he says yes, what he accepts and becomes the President?
MEGAN BEETS: What he forgets the keys?
ROSS: Yeah, when Einstein got married, he came home after the wedding and realized he'd lost his keys and couldn't get into his house.
The other major topic was the change in science that came around the quantum revolution, and this is something that Mr. LaRouche points to in particular, about Einstein's courage. Some of the implications of quantum science, quantum physics, quantum mechanics, include the idea that observations are an essential part of reality. That is, as solidified in what became known as the Copenhagen interpretation, the interpretation of Niels Bohr, for example, the act of observation determines the state of a system, in such a way that — I can't help this being a little bit vague — it's not possible, for example, to say where an electron is. The idea that an electron has a certain position even; let's say you have an atom that we know what the odds are that it is the case it shot off an electron; and let's say we've got some sort of screen around the atom and eventually the electron's going to hit that screen and make some light and we'll be able to see it. Before it has hit that screen, the Copenhagen interpretation would say that there are simply odds of the electron being in various places, in the interior there.
Einstein believed that, no, there was a specific time that the atom did decay at a certain time, and the electron really was somewhere, we just don't know where it is yet; but our knowledge is incomplete. The Copenhagen interpretation was that, indeed, there was no place where that electron was until it's finally observed. Then you could say, OK, here's what it was. But before that, it was actually wrong to say that it even had a location. This was something that Einstein had a major fight with; wrote papers on it, had a number of debates about it. He thought there was something more to be found, that there was a reality independent of our observations of it. So despite the vast majority of scientists going one way on this topic, Einstein stuck to his conviction that randomness is not part of nature. That knowability, reality is an essential component of nature.
Now, let me wrap of this with some of Einstein's thoughts about religion and about God. He was asked, "are you religious?" He said: "Yes, you can call it that. Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature, and you will find that behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent, I am in fact religious."
Here's another concept. Einstein said that the highest satisfaction of a scientific person, is to realize that God himself could not have arranged these connections we discover in any other way than that which does exist, any more than it would have been in his power to make 4 a prime number." Those familiar with the thinking of Leibniz will hear a certain very definite parallel there, that God has a freedom to create things beautifully, but not to contradict himself but to simply contradict the way things are. There's a certain reality there.
Two more quotes: "The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger and can stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed out candle. To sense that behind everything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reach us only indirectly, this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man."
And: "My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we can comprehend about the knowable world. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the comprehensible universe, forms my idea of God."
I said two more. Here's the last one, I promise.
"The very fact that the totality of our sense experiences is such that by means of thinking it can be put in order, this fact is one that leaves us in awe. The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility. The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle. I have no better expression than religious for this confidence in the rational nature of reality and in its being accessible to some degree to human reason. When this feeling is missing, science degenerates into mindless empiricism."
Let me wrap up — there's more to say. Some other topics are, his relationship to the FBI, his opposition to the McCarthy hearings; he told people to simply not testify, not under the Fifth Amendment that they might put themselves in trouble, but under the First Amendment, that people should be able to think what they think, and not be under some sort of thought dictatorship which he compared to what had occurred in Germany.
I think those last quotes do a pretty good job of summarizing Einstein's understanding of the human being and the eternal. That he's somebody who from his childhood, was committed not to the little aspects of life, to the comforts of life or the successes in the eyes of others, that kind of thing. But to expanding our understanding of that great world in which we live, and in developing that understanding, have a better sense of appreciation for that superior reasoning power, that religious sense, according to whom the world was made as well as it could have been; and that human identity is one that is committed to expanding that knowledge, and I would add, from LaRouche's standpoint, to implementing that understanding to improve the lives of people, which is something that Einstein stressed in one of his talks, at CalTech for example. He spoke to the assembled students there, and he said, "Don't forget in all of your diagrams and equations that the real point of science is to improve the wellbeing of people."
Let's talk about that. Let's respond to his individuality, his personality.
BEETS: Well, I can start. I have a question to pose to you or obviously, anyone else. In what you've outlined, you've given a sense that he was indeed a revolutionary mind, and you opened and closed here with the sense of economics, the true science of economics being based on the foundation of the progressing, creative human mind. But I was just thinking about the fact that Lyn, Mr. LaRouche has stressed that the human being doesn't just sort of trip over knowledge, but the human being actually creates knowledge of the future, that the mind is a unique power in the universe which creates knew knowledge of the future. It doesn't just stumble upon it, like one does a rock or something. So I was wondering if you have any thoughts or reflections about the way Einstein might have done that, or about the way Einstein's thoughts that give us an example of that, if you just say something specific on that.
ROSS: Hmm! How about from the standpoint of his changing views of Mozart and Beethoven? From that quote I had read earlier, where he saw a certain beauty and simplicity in the work of Mozart, which to him seem to have just come out of nature itself. Whereas Beethoven felt composed to him. Einstein said: Beethoven wrote his music, Mozart pulled it from Heaven. Not quite an exact quote.
Later in his life, Einstein had been given a birthday gift of a record player and a radio, and to the surprise of many of his friends, he started listening to Beethoven's Missa Solemnis quite a bit — which was odd, because Einstein was never, as an adult, not one for religious services. He was a religious man, but he didn't go to temple, he wasn't a regular synagogue goer or anything like this by any means. So Beethoven's music for a mass, seemed surprising both because what it was, and the fact that it was Beethoven.
Let me say what I think about this; I don't want to put words in Einstein's mouth. But, I think considering the similarities and differences between cultural creations and scientific creations is a helpful way to go on this. It sometimes seems unavoidable that we've made the scientific discoveries that we have, and it seems as though what we discover in science is something about the way the universe really is.
That's not fully true, and I think Einstein's a good demonstration of that. What Einstein had done in redefining space and time, and energy and matter, was to invalidate, if you look literally, pretty much every single physical law that preceded him. They were all wrong! Not by a lot, not measurably in most cases; but what seemed to be these relations of nature, were not actually right. So that our knowledge is always in a somewhat tentative quality, not temporary but always susceptible of being improved. And in that way, what we create are concepts that have a coherence with reality, but at the same time, are specifically related to our ability to interact with and reshape that reality.
That these discoveries we have in science, yes, they have a connection to what the world is. They also are historically specific, I think, in that the way that they allow us to have a greater control over or understanding of that universe, as demonstrated through technology, through the application of the knowledge of a principle to make something that has never happened before, happen. That's a real test for knowledge: Can you use this to make something occur that otherwise could never have happened. That's the kind of experiment where the results aren't going to be in third decimal column: It'll be did it happen or didn't it? Did you make something occur?
This is one of those topics that's a really big one, that Cusa, for example faulted Plato on. Maybe not faulted, but went beyond Plato on, where Nicholas of Cusa, the man who created the Renaissance, he faulted Plato. He disagreed with Plato in Plato's view that all ideas already exist, and that we are recollecting them. That while that might be what it feels like, when one makes a discovery, one comes to an idea that feels as if it was already there, you just uncovered it, Cusa thought that that didn't fully explain it. That we actually do create. That there's something — there's a certain freedom in creation, which I think is very clear in music.
Was the understanding of centripetal acceleration in terms of the radius that you're moving around versus your speed of a centripetal acceleration, was that a necessary law to discover? People might say, yes, it was. Was Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in its exact form, was that something that somebody would have to discover? They'd say no! No, that's a composition, it's a free act.
So I don't think it's totally resolved, how to square that with physical science, but there's some thoughts I have on it.
DENISTON: You mentioned the similar in some of these particular, on this specific subject, with Leibniz's work a fair amount over the years. Well, what do you think? This issue I think we're converging on, I think it's worth asking, saying this is something Mr. LaRouche has been combatting extensively, we know: Where does science as presented today stand on this recognition of this?
ROSS: Recognition of — ?
DENISTON: You had those quotes that we're worried about Einstein's reflection on his thoughts about what the knowability of the universe says about the human mind, and you said it was reminiscent of some of Leibniz's views; you just referenced Cusa's thoughts on this in terms of what is the nature of creative discovery, which people usually think of as science.
Today people go to classrooms, they're taught science, we have major science programs, and this, from the work I think was presented on a number of these shows, I think this has been a critical current in the development of science, historically. And where is it today? What happened to that? Where is the recognition of this?
ROSS: Right. Well, I think "recognized" is an understatement. It's opposed.
I think it's sort of an open question. Let's take, for example, take Richard Feynmann, a somewhat famous American physicist, Nobel Prize winner, quantum dynamics guy. His view was the idea — he was explicit about it — that the idea that there's a reason for laws being the way they are is sort of an old wives' tale. It's a nice thought. It's not really true, we should just pursue the truth and whatever comes it comes out to be, that's what the truth is.
The other thing is the thing is that such a conviction guides your search for the truth. That's what Einstein said: Anybody to whom this sense is lacking, becomes a mindless empiricist. Somewhere in there, there is the sense that human concepts have a correlation with nature. Now, what's a human concept? You know if you take the work on the mind or thinking that's prevalent, there's a sense that people are either worried or excited about artificial intelligence. And there are some things that machine learning can certainly do. Maybe don't buy a Tesla just yet, but self-driving cars are a common example people think of; that's great. Search engines, things like this, fine.
There's something unique about the creation of a totally new concept that is inherently un-mappable to what a computer can do and I don't know how it is that people pretend that isn't the case. You know, Kurt Gödel, although this was already known, Kurt Gödel proved this so definitively, and in fact, his proof isn't even as strong as — Kurt Gödel proved definitively that it's not possible to make reasoning machines that are going to be able to figure everything out. That the kind of breakthrough that Einstein made is something that's not logical, it doesn't follow from things in the past: it's a new thought, it's a new concept.
I think what I would go with would be to look at the work of Vernadsky, as the way to move forward, because he brought something totally new, the concept of the different phase-spaces between the abiotically physical, biological principles, and cognitive principles. According to Vernadsky there exist principles of biology that can be understood as biological principles, and you can look at an evolution, for example. Or there are characteristics of human behavior that cannot be reduced or explained in terms of the physical.
Now, I think the existence of free will means that that has to be the case. Unless you say there's no free will, and this conversation that we're having right now and the reactions that they have when everybody hears this conversation are all predetermined based on the state your brain had been in an hour ago, there's no real point in having life if you think that.
What it means is, that there has to be some way that thought is able to interact with the physical substrate of our bodies in a way that is not determined by the physical. How does that work? We don't know.
The problem with adopting the view of reductionism, where everything will be understood in terms of its pieces put together, means that we're never really going to — you'll be incapable of answering, except negatively, those kinds of questions.
LIONA FAN-CHIANG: It seems like the last few people who have made major discoveries created modern science like Kepler, and Einstein and so on, had this view, had this maybe awe, that the universe is comprehensible, that human beings can actually understand, interact and participate in creating. And it just struck me as you kept describing Einstein, this is exactly the type of change that Kepler introduced. It was a new principle; and that principle guides things, that guides the change of what we sense. And that what these other people were trying to do, with introducing ether and such was sort of like introducing an epicycle. It was trying to fit the old system with this new anomaly with just a little bit of a change.
ROSS: Yeah! That's one of the things that comes up — I mean, ever since Einstein did his work he's been under attack, mostly by anti-Semites who attack this "Jewish science of relativity," didn't like Einstein. That's not to say that everybody who disagreed with him was an anti-Semite. But in particular some of the people who'll say, well, Einstein he didn't really come up with those ideas anyway; Lorentz had already figured out how space and time change, and all this. What Lorentz did, he tried to find a way to explain the fact (and this is for another show), that it seems like you can't measure our speed through the ether. Lorentz said, well, we are moving through the ether; there's got to be an ether. So he had to come up with an explanation of why we can't measure our speed through the ether. What it came down to is why light, going the same distance in two directions perpendicular to each other, should take a different amount of time, depending on whether we're flying through the ether this way, then light moving along that direction and back should take longer, than light moving perpendicular and back the same distance. And you can test this out by having apparatus and rotating it and seeing if anything happens.
There was no effect. Didn't matter.
Lorentz said, well, uh-oh — the only way we can explain this is that the reason light didn't take longer to go on that path through the ether is that when you move through the ether, you get shorter. And that's why you don't notice that that light should have taken longer, because you got shorter.
It's just sort of a "we have to add this to make the experiments work out," but there wasn't a physical hypothesis, it didn't really have a basis. So, yeah, it was the formula that Einstein ended up applying to how space and time will change based on different observers, but the physical meaning was totally different. It was keeping things the way they were, even though the same formula as written by Einstein, means something totally different.
That's the trouble with math! I mean, what is a formula mean? Descartes and Fermat had the same formula for how light bends when it goes from air into water. Descartes said light sped up when it went into water, and Fermat said it slowed down! They both had the same formula, the understanding was totally different.
DENISTON: Plus the tennis rackets, right?
ROSS: Well, yeah, Descartes had a lot of other silly things, too. But I'm just trying to keep it simple.
BEETS: Planck pointed out that same thing, that the difference really is a fertile mind versus a deadened mind; he didn't use those words, but he talked about Kepler and the fact that Kepler used the same data that Tycho Brahe used and yet it was the creative mind of Kepler which was able to see through the cracks, so to speak, and have an insight into a completely undiscovered land, a completely undiscovered, or unthought-of principle. And that's why those data were fertile in his hands.
ROSS: Think about the data, that Kepler relied on Tycho's data to go through and really fill out his work. But his initial hypothesis — you'd never get from Tycho's data! He was in college writing a paper, thinking about why the planets have the distances they do, why does a planet speed up when it's closer to the Sun; he had a hypothesis that it would speed up proportionally as it got closer to the Sun, which is actually exactly what planets do. He was right. It didn't come from data! It was a hypothesis that he had.
Think about Einstein! What data did he start with for relativity? There were no experimental anomalies requiring it!
FAN-CHIANG: Except that light, that light just is the same in any reference, right?
FAN-CHIANG: That was the only experimental...
ROSS: That's true, that's true. There were experiments that showed that. But like, when he was 16 and he thought that thought-experiment to himself: If we caught up with a beam of light, it'll look like something we've never seen before. It'll be this weird electric magnetic thing, oscillating and not moving. That doesn't exist. So, the idea of catching up with it and looking at it, can't exist either. You don't need a lot of data for that.
FAN-CHIANG: The other thing is you can ask why? Like you were saying that Kepler was already asking why planets are the way they are. If you deny the validity of asking why things are the way they are, you've denied science altogether!
ROSS: You're of that mindless empiricism, as Einstein said you'll get to.
DENISTON: Unless there's more, I think that's a good introduction. I think that last point about the mindless empiricism, that is what has dominated science, and that's what people think science is today. So that really underscores the critical importance of Mr. LaRouche's emphasis on Einstein. Let's get back to real science if we're going to move mankind forward, we should probably know what mankind is, and how mankind interacts with the universe and what that means about real economics, real progress, real science. So I think it's been a good introduction to that.
ROSS: Let me just add, it can also start at a much lower level. I think a lot of what people think science is, is that they heard a scientists think something. And what keeps coming to my mind, is like global warming for example. Something that generally people, if you look at people who've got opinions on this, compared to how much they've read studies about it, or looked into the actual facts of the matter at all, or the theories and all this, it's completely way out of proportion. People have "heard" that scientists "think this" they don't do work on it themselves for the most part, and they have conclusions that they think are scientific. They're just repeating something. It's saying "I heard this from an expert."
So in addition to the higher level of what is science, really, actually having some sense, personally of having some connection to this stuff is so essential. And that's one of the things we've been able to have some opportunities to have some experimentation with, in terms of what education really could and ought to be like. Where if you imagine what — for example, in one of our recent shows, somebody had asked, I've got a lot of friends who say the Earth is flat. How do I talk sense into them?
Now the problem isn't that they really think the Earth is flat, it's they don't know anything. But even on that in particular, if everyone had gone through in school how Eratosthenes measured the size of the Earth, not just that it's round, but how he knew 2,000 years ago, how big it was, you know? It's the sort of thing you need a personal, direct connection to, and that's a real challenge. That's a challenge, to develop that. There's a cultural development, a musical development that's needed and occurs, for example, through the people who participated in the Mozart Requiem concerts, around the 15th anniversary of 9/11: the musicians, people in the chorus who participated in this, having a direct connection to what culture, what art can be. You know, it has to be personal. You have to really get into it.
DENISTON: There's an internal sense of rightness when you know you've actually figured something out. And maybe this is a lower level than some of the things we're discussing, the standardized testing, all this stuff is just about "can I do something where it's clear that I got the right answer?" completely divorced from the internal ability to know when you've got the right answer and even just basic reasoning through knowledge and discovering how to figure something out, is really absent from the vast majority of education today.
ROSS: Here's Einstein, who wrote about what the school testing was like back in his day, before "common core," before "No Child Left Behind," Einstein wrote, "it is in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have no entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry"! That was his view of what education was like 100 years ago! [laughter]
DENISTON: This is a very good introduction to the significance of this subject. So I think that's a good dose for today for our audience. There's a lot to chew on, and we'll certainly be back with more. So thank you for joining us, and we'll continue the discussion here at larouchepac.com.